Lion Tickets, Packers Tickets, Redskins Tickets, Oh My! Who Will Remain Undefeated

It has been two weeks and the NFL is down to seven undefeated teams, and three of them are in the AFC East. This really is incredible. The teams on the list are even more unbelievable. There are the typical teams like the Patriots and Packers, but then there are the Redskins, the Bills, the Lions, and the Texans (the Jets could really go either way here).

So, which of these teams are going to remain undefeated heading into Week 4?

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Tickets

This head-to-head matchup of the unbeaten takes the Patriots to play the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Absolutely no one expects the Bills to escape unscathed here. The Vegas Insider has the home team as eight-point underdogs. Apparently beating up on the AFC West (the Chiefs in Week 1 and the Raiders in Week 2) does not earn a football team much respect. The Patriots have not beaten anyone (yes, that includes the Chargers), but how could you possibly believe Ryan Fitzgerald is going to best Tom Brady?

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints Tickets

Sure, the Saints defense looked pretty pathetic against the Packers, but the offense looked outstanding against both the Packers and Bears. The Texans have yet to play a team that can put up as many points as they can, so I am looking forward to a shootout. However, I expect the Texans to be overrun like the Alamo in the end.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Tickets

Looks like the Lions are headed to 3-0 unless Donavan McNabb learns how to locate a receiver in the end zone. The Lions line is a beast and might actually show up for this game to stop one Adrian Peterson. Still, Detroit has the league’s fourth best passer in Matthew Stafford and he should shred a passing defense that allows 280 yards a game.

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders Tickets

Vegas may favor the Jets, but I like this as an upset special. I just have some sort of feeling that Darren McFadden is going to rush for 150 yards and a couple touchdowns while Mark Sanchez tests the good will he has garnered going 2-0 to start the season.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Tickets

I may be a Bears fan, but no hometown bias is going to lead me to doubt that the Packers domination is going to lead to another drunken afternoon at Buffalo Wild Wings. This time I will be sulking in my Two Brothers Dumaine DuPage, instead of celebrating a season opening win though. My only consolation will be if the Bears keep Aaron Rodgers below 400 yards passing.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tickets

Grudge matches mean records do not matter (ignore game above obviously). The Cowboys may have taken overtime to beat the 49ers last Sunday, but the Redskins beat the Cardinals by one point. Both games are hardly sparkling examples of dominant football teams. Still, Sexy Rexy seems to be pulling a Mark Rypien, which means he might earn an excessive contract before being relegated to back up for the rest of his career.

The NFL Doomsday Scenario

Get ready for one the worst years for parity in the NFL in 2010. Some would argue that parity has been on its way out since the Patriots went 16-0 in 2007 and the Lions went 0-16 the very next season. Those franchises are just aberrations though. The New England Patriots were somehow able to convince aging players to take a pay cut in exchange for a very real chance for a Super Bowl ring and the Detroit Lions are just a franchise with a terrible front office year after year. The real attack on parity is behind closed doors being decided by the players union, owners, and Roger Goodell.

The first element of the perfect storm is the recent announcement that the stadium-based revenue-sharing program is in its last year. This does not mean that all revenue-sharing has been abolished. The television moneys will still be distributed among the franchises. The stadium-revenue sharing accounts for just $100 million that is taken from the top 15 teams and give to the bottom 12. This is a small amount, but helped to maintain the opportunity by keeping the balance line for teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders from falling into the red.

The second element of this storm is the fact that unless some sort of an agreement reached soon, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports, there will be no salary cap for the 2010 season. This means that teams willing to burn through money faster than the Yankees will be free to load their rosters for at least one season.

This second element also introduces an overlooked caveat. There will be no team minimum salary cap. Currently a team must spend a certain amount. This forces teams to stay competitive by nature of demanding that they find talent to sign. Without this guarantee the more fiscally conservative teams in the league might just unload their rosters and try and field a team worthy of playing in Canadian Football League.

In Gary Peterson’s Mercury News column covering the same news he mentions a few teams that might just pilfer their operating budget. The most likely team to buy its pro bowl team that he mentions has to be the Dallas Cowboys.

Owner Jerry Jones freely overspent on the new Cowboys Stadium (yes he received a great deal of financial help from the city of Arlington and the NFL kicked in $150 million, but he still spent a boat load of money on the Death Star). He has the money to spend and is so obsessed with his team he puts Mark Cuban to shame. He has run coaches off the field by his very presence on the sidelines. This man wants to win a Super Bowl at whatever cost.

Other teams he mentions I am not so sure about. He may have overextended the notion that the teams are able to overspend with a willingness to overspend. Being from Chicago, I have to say that the inclusion of the Bears in the same sentence with the Cowboys is ridiculous.

The Chicago Bears may have overspent to keep Brian Urlacher, but that had to be a public relations move. The front office could not “betray” the face of the franchise. Bears fans know the McCaskey’s are cheap and have been sullying the franchise since the original owner and architect George Halas passed in 1983. This front office would rather pocket the money they are saving than say, bring in a big play receiver or sign a decent left tackle to make Cutler the quarterback he could be.

There are a few teams that would over spend though, and that would decimate the parity established over the last decade or so by financial constraints. My fear is that there are far more teams whose owners would rather put together an inferior team to save money. The best future would most likely have most of the teams active in the offseason, but acting as if the salary cap restrictions will return in 2011. Sadly, this is not the last paragraph of this little commentary.

The effect of this attack on parity would do more than just sap the competitiveness of the average league game. An ownership suddenly looking for a little more financial cover could choose to raise the cost of NFL tickets.

This could be done for teams near the red right now or once a team brings in a star to turn things around. Every year tickets prices go up anyway, but suddenly team owners (who are notoriously cheap and hate taking chances with money) might justify an increase with price by blaming the fans desire to actually have a winning team. Then when the team bombs the fans stop coming and a terrible cycle of blame begins.

To me parity, or at least some semblance of financial parity, is what made the NFL so successful in this last decade. While the NBA, NHL, and MLB continue to struggle with finances the NFL has made money with regards to operating and fielding a team, much less of an issue. A league as concerned and conflicted by financial agreements as it is about the championship (the ultimate final product of that league) is one that risks alienating fans.

Five NFL Trends Sure to Fade

After three weeks of NFL football all the preconceptions from the 2008 season have been washed away and replaced by new beliefs. Some of these new revelations are not that ludicrous, for instance the Jets look like they will actually be a good team this season and may challenge the New England Patriots for AFC East supremacy. Most of these developments are just trends that will fade in the next couple of weeks though. Five of those most bizarre trends are listed below.

The Denver Broncos have the best defense in the NFL

The Denver Broncos defense currently allows the fewest yards per game at just 214.7. They give up just 136.3 yards per game through the air and 78.3 yards per game on the ground. They also allow an astonishingly stingy 5.3 points per game. The closest comparable scoring defense is the New York Jets which seems just as unbelievable with just 11 points per game allowed. The first realistic scoring defense on the list belongs to the Indianapolis Colts at 15 points allowed per game.

Why have the Broncos been so dominant? Why do I not believe that new coach Josh McDaniels will be able to keep up this incredible pace? Well, to begin with the Broncos allowed the third most points last season at 28 per game and the fourth most yards at 374.6 per game. The defensive roster has not changed drastically and Josh McDaniels was an offensive coordinator, not a defensive coordinator.

The only reason the Broncos have such impressive numbers is that they have played the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, and the Oakland Raiders. The Browns are a game away from handing the reins of the offense over to receiver and special team specialist Josh Cribbs and the Raiders are sputtering with JaMarcus Russell and his NFL-worst 39.8 quarterback rating. This next stretch of games against the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and San Diego Chargers will return the Broncos to the bottom of the defensive standings where they belong.

Cedric Benson is third in the NFL in rushing yards

I am from Chicago, so I have a vivid memory of the 5-11, 225 pound bruiser trying to tap dance his way between the tackles. He is somehow averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has amassed 293 yards in 2009 as a Cincinnati Bengal. He is not in the class of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, but he is leading the next group of running backs who are approaching 300 yards after three games.

Benson never established himself as the feature back with the Bears, but reached career highs in careers (214) and yards (747) in just 12 games with the Bengals in 2008. This season he has no competition from the running back depth chart and is the lone offensive bright spot for a team that suddenly has a problem at quarterback despite having Carson Palmer back healthy. Eventually teams are going to realize that they need to stop worrying about the Palmer-Ochocinco connection that has been broken since 2007. Then they will start bearing down on Benson and his numbers will suffer, knocking him out of the top ten rushing list.

Philip Rivers is averaging 330.3 yards per touchdown pass

The San Diego Chargers are a high octane offense that is averaging 26.7 points a game and 315 passing yards a game (out of 382 total yards per game). Despite those incredible numbers, Rivers only has three touchdown passes. To put this in perspective, the only team that averages more passing yards a game is the Indianapolis Colts and their quarterback (Peyton Manning) has seven touchdown passes.

Rivers is bound to account for more of the scoring very soon, especially with the continued decline of LT. The Chargers running game is pretty non-existent right now, which means that Rivers and his collection of targets are the only real thing moving the ball right. That means just because of the sheer number of yards and percentage of plays that are passing plays Rivers must accumulate more touchdown passes.

One of the underlying factors accounting for the lack of touchdowns for the team as a whole right now is that Rivers is only completing 58.8 percent of his throws. This means that the kicking game is picking up most of the points after a stuffed run or a couple of incompletions. Rivers is sure to bring that percentage closer to his career average, around 62.1 percent and then his touchdown throws will increase and propel him to the Pro Bowl once again.

The Dallas Cowboys receivers are averaging 20-plus yards a catch

There are two ways to look at the Cowboys passing game. One is to see those numbers per catch and be extremely impressed. The other is to then check how many receptions the two starting receivers have and wonder what Romo is doing. Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams each have just eight catches. Most of Tony Romo’s passes have been caught by Jason Witten. Witten, his favorite tight end, has caught 19 passes with a decent yards average per reception for a tight end at 9.5 YPC.

These receivers need to become a greater part of the offense for the Dallas Cowboys to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC. They cannot just be big play guys that show up on Sportscenter highlights. This is the 21st century not the 1970s. The passing game is the key to most teams’ offenses. Crayton and Williams are sure to get the ball more often and see that yard per catch average plummet. If these numbers remain I expect two things. First, Dallas will finish last in the NFC East. Second, there will be another revolt in the locker room as Crayton and Williams complain they are seeing the ball just four or five times a game despite being starting receivers.

The Panthers have continued to stick with Jake Delhomme

The Carolina Panthers were 12-4 last season. This season they are 0-3 with little optimism to go around. The defense is terrible allowing 362 yards and 29 points a game. Last season the defense was much better and worked with the emphasis on running the ball. This season the defense cannot stop the run and needs quick scores to get back into the game before trying to slow it down. Delhomme is simply not getting the job done. He has seven picks in three games and just two touchdown passes. He is completing just 59.3 percent of his passes for a paltry 6.6 yards per attempt.

Delhomme is perhaps best suited to be a game manager, but this team needs a dynamic play maker to work with Steve Smith and make another receiver on the roster emerge as a threat. The incredible Smith is averaging a mere 12.7 yards per catch because Delhomme cannot give the defense a reason to cover another target on the field. I think that Delhomme has two more bad games before coach John Fox begrudgingly moves down the depth chart. It seems that by the end of the season A.J. Feeley will be the starting quarterback and the Panthers will join the hunt for a player that can succeed behind center in the new NFL.

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NFL Week 17 Preview, Fighting For tickets to the Postseason

This is the final week of the NFL regular season and there are still several games that are actually worth watching if you are not from that city or have become an indentured fan thanks to your family lineage.

Yes, these games matter. The most interesting to me perhaps is the Minnesota Vikings game with the New York Giants. They get to play at home and they get to play a Giants team that already has home field advantage throughout the NFC-side of the postseason.

Still, after the embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys the New York Giants bound to want to continue to climb toward a pinnacle of play, even after last week’s exciting 34-28 win over the Carolina Panthers. I think Eli Manning needs to find his new number one receiver and the entire Giants coaching staff knows it. New York may be a run happy team, but the team needs to know that have one receiver who can make the diving catch for the first down in the pivotal third and long.

The Vikings need this win or they can possibly lose the NFC North to a Chicago Bears team that has fumbled, stumbled, and just plain lucked its way through the season. Minnesota is down a serviceable quarterback (Gus Frerotte) and is starting Tarvaris Jackson, a player whose suck-tastic play lost him the confidence of his head coach.

Luckily the Vikes have Adrian Peterson to march down field. Now Minnesota does not lose the postseason appearance automatically. The Bears still have to beat the Houston Texans, but with a defense that could surrender 40 points to the Pop Warner team Dante Culpepper was coaching before coming back to the Detroit Lions it is not safe to assume Chicago will blow this game.

The other game of interest to obsessed professional football fans is the Denver-San Diego game. After building to an almost definite stance above the pile of mediocrity that is the AFC West, the Broncos failed to keep a single running back healthy and watched the year dwindle closer and closer to a pathetic close.

That incredibly scenario has come to Week 17 with a match up with the very team that has had a late season surge toward the middle of the NFL, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have been riding the arm of Philip Rivers as the legs of LT have finally given way to some wear and tear.

This one is difficult to call. The Chargers are on a three game winning streak and playing bad defense that has allowed the Bucs and the Chiefs to score 20-plus points. They also get to play at home at Qualcomm Stadium. The Broncos have lost two games in a row and have been struggling to score points. In the end I think the Chargers will win a shoot out that will go out down in history and be an instant classic on the NFL Channel.

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NFL Playoff Picture Becoming Foggy

This week in the NFL is almost over all that remains is a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles, who really have no shot at making the playoffs at this point. After 15 games I am more confused than ever and completely perplexed by the last remaining division races and the teams clawing at each other for the final wild card spots.

The week started off with the Chicago Bears defeating the New Orleans Saints to keep pressure on the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North. I do not know how the Bears won on Thursday without any passing defense in the second half and without any means by which to move the ball forward. Really it was a pitiful win, but a win nonetheless.

The Viking responded by ravaging the Cardinals defense in a 35-14 game. Adrian Peterson was amazing with 165 yards and the Arizona had such awful pass coverage that Tavaris Jackson threw four touchdowns.

Minnesota should win the North based on talent and team play, but their last two games are far more difficult than Chicago’s. The Vikings play the Falcons, a team just as desperate for a win, and the Giants. The Giants that will show up in Week 17 will probably have Brandon Jacobs and the fact that they will be playing for home field advantage in the NFC playoff picture gives them motivation despite their clinching of the division.

The Bears get a revenge game against the Green Bay Packers. Avenging the 37-3 loss is enough reason to play, but add in a possible playoff spot and Chicago might have enough reason to go out destroy the Pack and then run all over the Houston Texans.

The other division without a clear winner is the AFC East. The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots are each 9-5. Each team won this week and the games on each team’s schedule little to help pick a winner. The Pats have the Cards and the Bills and the Jets and Dolphins have creampuffs before they meet each other in the last game of the season.

I do not know who should win or who will win. This is the division to watch and might actually inspire me to watch the terrible NFL coverage on CBS these last two weeks.

Elsewhere, the NFC wild card has come down to the Dallas Cowboys, Tamp Bay Bucs, and Atlanta Falcons. Right now the Falcons are the odd man out, but with two weeks left, a feud still brewing in Dallas and the Bucs offense relying on a 38-year-old quarterback, the young, fun Falcons could easily be in the playoffs.

One wild card spot has been all but decided. The Indianapolis Colts have played far from the pretty offensive game that had become their staple but with 10 wins they should get one of the wild card spots.

That leaves whoever does not win in the AFC East and the Baltimore Ravens competing for one spot. My guess is that Joe Flacco continues his descent back to the rookie world and the second place in the East gets the last spot. Flacco has had two abysmal games in a row and I do not think he has enough experience to bounce back from that kind of funk yet.

I may be utterly lost when it comes to the NFL Playoffs this season, but I that kind of competition is what drives the sale of NFL tickets and is really making me wish I did not live in a cold weather city.

The NFL Least Valuable Players Are…

The NFL Season is 14 weeks old and the experts are talking about who is the most value player. I hear names like Kurt Warner, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees. I hear about a couple of running backs named Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner and a safety called Troy Polamalu. I do not hear talk of who is the least valuable player, though.

The least valuable player is not a guy who is number 53 on the roster or a star who has been injured and unable to put up decent numbers. No the least valuable player (LVP) is just somebody that has not performed remotely as well as was expected.

Sure the league has players like Tony Romo on the Dallas Cowboys and Peyton Manning on the Colts, but it also has players like Jason Campbell and David Garrard. The Washington Redskins were supposed to finally develop into a consistent offense.

The Redskins may have won seven games so far, but this is mostly because Clinton Portis is still an amazing back. Campbell has simply not made the necessary to take advantage of Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. The Redskins may not have the best receivers in the league, but they are more than capable of scoring more than 12 touchdowns over the course an NFL season.

David Garrard was never supposed to be a rock star at quarterback, but the Jacksonville Jaguar was supposed to be able to manage a game. I know he has absolutely no help at wide receiver and the offense is often based on a three tight end set to take advantage of the dangerous duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. He is perhaps the one quarterback I could not blame for only throwing 11 touchdowns. I cannot excuse the 10 picks though. His yards per attempt are pitiful as well at 6.71. Basically, he is not helping a running offense control the ball with giveaways and a failure to convert passing third downs.

Not all the candidates are young quarterbacks. There are also a few receivers. These guys are named Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. These players have a reputation for big egos and big flaws. Randy Moss is a big play receiver that is too much of a premadonna to go over the middle. Last season he was amazing. He had 98 receptions, 1493 yards, and 23 touchdowns. This season, with Tom Brady gone he has 61 catches, 841 yards, and eight touchdowns.

When a young quarterback steps in you have to help out. That means stop dropping passes (the NFL says he only has 5 for the year, but it feels like that is a very soft number) and go over the middle to catch something. The Patriots season was not over after Brady collapsed. The whistle did not blow. Keep playing.

Terrell Owens has no problem going over the middle. He does have problems catching the ball and getting along with teammates. Now he has hardly been the only Dallas Cowboys player complaining or disappointing, but he certainly has played worse than almost any other receiver being paid the big bucks. He has 55 catches through 13 games. The last time his numbers looked this bad were in 2005 when he was injured and in 1996 when he was a rookie playing in the slot. His yards per reception and touchdown number look alright, but a gander at his game log has the man with only one game with more than 100 yards.

The rumor is that a love triangle worthy of a CW production has begun in Dallas. Owens is now jealous that Romo has found a relationship with Jason Whitten. Owens has allegedly said the two road roomies are making plans among themselves. T.O. has truly lost his mind. If he really wants to make up with Romo ad become the number one target in his eye then get open and catch a d*mn ball.

Until then he is the front runner for LVP. Feel free to comment, call me a big jerk, or even put up your own nominees. I am sure I missing at least one player per team.

The NFL’s S.A.D. Kicks in This Week

This week feels like its time to keep the dream going or give the fans a little End of the Season Affective Disorder. While this week has a couple of great marquee games, the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Bucs versus the Carolina Panthers, there is that wonderful sense of urgency for a number of teams.

The Washington Redskins have to win if they want to have any chance to catch the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons for the final wild card spot. They play the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens may not be in such a desperate position, but with the Patriots and the Dolphins playing well the team could use a win to move a step closer to the post season.

Both teams have been a surprise so far. The Redskins were not counted out of the NFC East in the season previews, but were not really taken seriously. The Ravens, on the other hand, were supposed to struggle through a tough year by Joe Flacco. Instead, the rookie quarterback has made the Ravens one of the top offenses in the league. Ironically, this was supposed to be the breakout year for Jason Campbell, but he has remained a non-factor in Washington’s struggling offense.

Elsewhere on the NFC East front, the Philadelphia Eagles are in need of a win, but they have to go to New York to get it against the division rival Giants. McNabb may have had a field day against the Cards on Thanksgiving, but the Giants secondary is going to be much less generous and the Giants D-Line is going to force McNabb into more throws than he likes.

The Bears have to win against a very tough 4-8 Jacksonville Jaguar team to avoid the locker room collapsing on their early season postseason hopes. Similarly, the Packers need a win, but they get to face Matt Schaub in his comeback, whether this is good or bad is unknown to even the omnipotent.

In the AFC it is a similar story with the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. Both need a win to stay in the hunt for the wild card, and now they stand in each other’s way. I like the Dolphins. I think Trent Edwards needs a few CAT scans after his performance in the last five or six weeks.

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The NFL Mod Squad – Vick, Plaxico, and Pacman – Every Saturday Morning

Between the days of cocaine suspensions in the 1980s and the steroid allegations of the late 1990s, there was a period where our superstar athletes were known purely for their on-the-field exploits and not their off-the-field antics. This was the early 1990s and at its pinnacle was ProStars, a Saturday morning cartoon on NBC that featured Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, and Wayne Gretzky fighting crime.

In the spirit of recycling, but in the spirit of the new Batman movies I think the series should take a harder edge. I think ProStars: The 21st Century should embrace this new age of scandal and bring Plaxico Burress, Michael Vick, and Pacman Jones together. I do not think they would be opposed, according to all reports they are quickly doing their best to get kicked out of the league and are destined to file for bankruptcy.

Yes, Pro Stars: 21st Century is the MOD Squad edition. Plaxico Burress takes over as the brains of the group from Michael Jordan. The New York Giants immensely talented receiver is by far the most intelligent since he is the only won to not face possible prison time so far. Instead he simply has a restraining order and has alienated everyone in the locker room, in an attempt to put the Giants season at risk. He no faces gun charges for carrying a concealed weapon into a club and then shooting himself in the league.

One may ask why Burress gets to be the brains. Well the answer begins with Michael Vick. Vick had an elite career ahead of him. He was destined to become one of the best ever at the quarterback position for his rare ability to throw, run, and lead and the chace to be the Atlanta Falcons’ savior. Those skills make a genetic freak and make him the closest kin to two-sport athlete Bo Jackson, making him the muscle of the group. He used that muscle to control the pit bulls of his Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring. He also managed to go bankrupt while serving time in prison. Vick had close to 18 million dollars when he entered prison eight months ago and now has filed for bankruptcy.

The sheer numbers in this case boggle the mind. I read Rick Reilly’s breakdown of the money trail and am dumbfounded as to why he continued to let his posse, which helped put him in jail, have anything to do with his money. You would think a man about to go to prison for illegal activities would change it up and shed everyone not related to him by blood or by association of having birthed his child, but no, boy genius kept the gauntlet of stupidity going. For those numerous reasons and the fact that he is going to get out of prison and immediately become a star in the Arena Football League, Vick is Jackson and not Jordan.

Every group needs its comic relief, a character who offers timely bits of amusing distractions to fill the gap between the scenes of the focal points. That player/problem is without question Pacman Jones. What would we have done with our thirst for legal mishaps with this man? The time between Vick’s trials and Plaxico’s breakdown would have left an awkward void. Enter the Pacman. We needed the allegations of his associations with drug dealers, shootings, and beatings to get us through those dull moments when football players were only discussed in terms of their on the field play.

I personally could not imagine a season without the possibility of Jones being kicked off a team or physical battery charges being filed by strippers. Pacman has stayed in the news enough in his first four years (including two years with the Titans, a year suspended from the league, and his latest stint with the Dallas Cowboys) to carry us from Burress distraction to Vick suspension. He completes the team. Now all we need is a Kanye West to sample the theme song, “We Are ProStars” (which is like a Weird Al version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”) and the ProStars redux is complete and ready for the new audience of children in the 21st century.

Turkey Hangover or the NFL Week 13 Recap

This week played out like the typical Thanksgiving weekend. It started Thursday with a trio of blowouts. The Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles put their opponents to shame like the Grandma’s mashed potatoes did to the new wife’s attempt to cook and contribute to the family.

Then Sunday laid a few eggs. The 49ers-Bills, Colts-Browns, and Dolphins-Rams games felt like the receivers and running backs were carrying about as much weight as the linemen. You can credit the scores to defense all you want, but I do not think anybody can deny that the Bills should have had a second consecutive 50-point game ran against the San Francisco D, Peyton Manning should have picked apart the Browns instead throwing two interceptions, and Miami’s wildcat formation should have had more high school-esque highlights a paltry Rams team.

There were still plenty of good games to watch though. The Carolina Panthers 35-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers could have held any lingering effects of tryptophan at bay. DeAngelo Williams was a touchdown machine with four and Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns to keep the Land of Cheese off his back as Brett Favre continues to look ageless as the New York Jets quarterback (though he looked human again in the Jets loss to the Denver Broncos).

Elsewhere, Adrian Peterson was busy running over the Bears like they were his 12-year old cousins playing in the annual holiday game for the first time, the Redskins could take advantage of the New York Giants latest distraction (Plaxico Burress…concealed fire arm…night club…what could go wrong), and the Pittsburgh Steelers dismissed the Patriots despite an underwhelming fantasy performance by Ben Roethislberger.

The first holiday weekend is over. The four day break began strong and ended with a few naps on Sunday, but the weeks ahead will build to frenzy as the best teams in the league hope to receive a Super Bowl trip for Christmas.

This Last Week’s NFL Tickets were tickets to a Buffet of Scoring

54-31! 54-31! How often does a team (the Kansas City Chiefs) score 31 points and still get blown out by 23 points?!?

This was the weekend of big, the weekend of extravagance, the weekend of multiple trips to the goal line. Michael Turner crossed the pylon’s plane four times. The man scored four times and tied the Falcons record for touchdowns in a game. Atlanta used every one of them and scored 17 more points to beat the Carolina Panthers 45-28. The game put any of my doubts as to the legitimacy of the team so soon after the post-Vick fallout.

Marquee players made a return to the tops of the fantasy standings as well. Terrell Ownes may have only scored one touchdown, but he also went for 213 yards on seven catches as the Dallas Cowboys easily handled the 49ers 35-22. Owens averaged 30.5 yards a catch. He averaged three first downs a reception. Apparently the 49ers safeties were under the impression that he was still on their team despite wearing a blue and white jersey.

Randy Moss put on a show scoring three touchdowns and gaining over 100 yards for the first time in four weeks to remind corners that they cannot handle him. The New England Patriots prevailed 48-28 over the Miami Dolphins to stay one game behind the Jets.

Speaking of the Jets, New Yorkers have to love Brett Favre as he leads the team through this inexplicable season. He took the Jets to new heights with a win over the Titans, the last undefeated team in the NFL. Broadway Joe is going to have to make room for Broadway Brett in the hearts of Jets fans so desperately looking for something to take them out of the looming shadow of the New York Football Giants.

Those Giants put on an offensive barrage in the second half to hold off Kurt Warner and the three-headed monster in the receiving corps. New York won 37-29 over the Arizona Cardinals to hold off the rest of the NFC East and remain comfortably atop the division.

NFL Tickets in big cities like New York, Pittsburgh, and Boston are going to be for more than just the diehard fans willing to brave the bitter winds and the plummeting temperatures. This season, they are all contenders and the fans will have to fight the fair weather crowd for their rightful place in the stands.